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China demands that participants critical of Beijing are banned, EU responds by cancelling China-Europe Trade Forum: Read details

The Chinese officials had attempted to ban German politicians, academics and journalists from past events, however, this is the first time the had targeted a senior European parliamentarian in charge of EU-China relations.

The People Republic of China, which has been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism globally over its increasing expansionist policies, faced yet another embarrassment last month as European organisers cancelled their meet annual EU-Chinese forum meet after Chinese demanded to ban participants critical of Beijing.

According to WSJ report, the fourth edition of the annual China-EU CEO and former Senior Officials Dialogue – a closed-door meeting that includes around 40 chief executives, top officials and academics from Europe and China was scheduled to be held through videoconference this year.

This year, China insisted that the organisers drop speakers who were critical of China. However, the European organizers at BusinessEurope, an umbrella organization for the European Union’s national business lobbies, rejected Chinese demands to exclude certain participants.

The reluctance on both sides to escalate this conflict led to organisers stating that another dialogue should take place again next year.

“We held three very successful editions of this dialogue that takes place every year, alternating in Brussels and Beijing,” said BusinessEurope spokesman Peter Sennekamp adding that ‘regrettably’ this year’s dialogue had to be cancelled.

Decision assumes significance amidst deteriorating ties between China and the rest of the world

The decision to ignore China’s demands comes at a time when Europe is trying to strike between safeguarding business interests and upholding democratic values amidst China’s increasingly aggressive global stance. Europe firm stands assume significance after US and Australia too had taken more forceful stands against China.

Experts believe that the cancellation of the event also gives a fresh sign of Europe’s hardening stance toward Beijing, a shift that became evident last year when the bloc described China as a systemic rival. The EU officials had openly taken an anti-China stand and had blamed China for disinformation during the coronavirus pandemic.

The China Center for International Economic Exchange (CCIEE), which claims to promote international economic research and exchanges under the guidance and supervision of economic planning agency, noted that dialogues with other countries had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A CCIEE official said that the dialogue’s aim was to promote international economic research and trade cooperation but that some participants did not seem to fit the principle or goal of the event. He claimed that some participants last year had violated rules.

China wanted a ban on European critics

Reportedly, China wanted trade forum to exclude two people from this year’s virtual event. One speaker is Reinhard Bütikofer, the European Parliament’s chairman of the EU-China caucus, who has publicly criticized Beijing over Hong Kong and its treatment of the Uighur minority. China had also asked to bar Mikko Huotari, the head of Merics, a German think tank critical of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs is yet to respond to the cancellation of the annual meet. The Chinese officials had attempted to ban German politicians, academics and journalists from past events, however, this is the first time the had targeted a senior European parliamentarian in charge of EU-China relations.

Jörg Wuttke, the head of the EU-China Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, said he was aware of the cancellation after the EU-China forum refused to give in to Chinese demands to leave out a company representative from one event he was organizing. That event did take place, he added.

In a report published by the Chamber in September, Wuttke criticized China’s “small but highly conspicuous ‘army of wolf warriors’ in the foreign affairs ministry who have escalated Twitter wars with politicians around the world. 

The Chinese diplomats and propagandists have taken on countries for calling out China’s inaction during the coronavirus pandemic. China has launched a diplomatic offensive against Australia after it called for an investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. China had also threatened France and cancelled a nationwide tour by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra after a tussle with the city’s mayor over Taiwan.

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